WASHINGTON – There’s another power struggle in Virginia over how tax dollars are being spent on mass transit.
Leaders in northern Virginia for years have complained the region does not get back a proper amount of transit dollars based on taxes sent to Richmond.
Now, Gov. Bob McDonnell’s administration is trying to change how all transit money is distributed. The change will be reviewed by the Commonwealth Transportation Board next week and would take the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) – which currently receives and distributes transportation funding among its member jurisdictions – out of the process.
All allocations instead will be sent directly from the state’s Department of Rail and Public Transportation to local governments or the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority, which runs Metro.
“I don’t think that our taxpayers appreciate having terms dictated to us in Richmond for something that’s been working very efficiently here in northern Virginia,” says Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova, who is among those opposing the change.
But Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton says northern Virginia should be allocated money in the same way as the rest of the state, with funding going directly to municipalities.
“The funds were redistributed not based on the grant applications but by a separate regional formula,” says Connaughton, criticizing the NVTC. “We’re still trying to figure out how it was done.”
The proposed shift in how funds are allocated comes after two big disputes between Richmond and northern Virginia leaders over transportation money. The state and some local jurisdictions have been at odds over the allocation of money for the second phase of the Dulles Metrorail expansion as well as I-95/395 High Occupancy Vehicle lanes in Arlington County.